By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
There was a time, not so long ago, when good vs. evil was personified by simple things we could understand. Old Man Potter vs. the conscience of George Bailey, for instance. Or John Wayne vs. anyone in a black hat.
The world was certainly simpler then, and in many ways I wish it still was.
Events of the past month have cast an eerie pall over life in the world. Attacks on such far-removed places as Paris and Mali have many people scrambling for maps and looking over their shoulders. Why is this happening? Who can we trust? How do we prevent it?
I’m not sure which is worse — the bloodshed or the incessant analysis of it.
It’s all very mindful of September 2001 and December 1941, times when so much of our innocence also appeared gone forever.
In fact, you can think of all sorts of historical comparisons, from the Middle Ages on, when man’s hatred seemed to run amok, sometimes in the name of tyranny, sometimes in the name of the Almighty.
What’s common about all these eras is that good men have always prevailed. We espoused good and we united against evil. And in this nation particularly, we’ve always been the beacon of hope for the rest of the world.
And that’s what makes the current debate over terrorism’s refugees so deeply troubling. Our beacon bulb is blinking. We are suddenly sending some kind of coded message.
To hear some of our aspiring political leaders, the barbarians are already at the gate. We need to build a wall. Or a database. Or something.
There is a growing trend of alarmism that suggests we need to compromise everything that makes us great. Our vast expanse of liberty is being held hostage to the notion that we somehow have to give up our welcoming ways to ensure our safety.
I simply don’t believe that. I don’t think peeking behind every door or going through every cell phone log or setting up special privilege passes for those who seek refuge is the answer.
While I do believe in the strength of our democracy, I see the refugee crisis as a bit like America’s clash over immigration. How do we address a few thousand Syrians when we can’t figure out what to do with millions of others who are already here? Today’s immigration path is so fraught with problems that people are waiting years to gain admission legally — or crossing the border to stake their claim outside the law.
Who do we keep in? Who do we let in? Who do we trust? Our relations with outsiders is part of one large problem, getting bigger and more complicated by the day.
Our current Congress and president seem incapable of communication — or compromise. That leaves it to future elected leaders, and judging from what I’ve seen and heard on the campaign trail recently I don’t have much confidence in their ability either.
Our forefathers struggled with their own issues, yet they were always able to rise to the task. Terrorism represents the challenge of our generation. I think we will figure out solutions, but we won’t do it by forgetting our ideals. I’m ready to get behind the first person to step forward and invoke the poet Emma Lazerus, who wrote:
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
Those words at the base of Lady Liberty have provided our beacon for more than 100 years.